Forget what you think you know. Forget expectations, disappointments and misunderstandings. Forget mindless arbitrators of taste whose idea of award winning -alternative’ pop music is Elbow. On Dark Days/Light Years Super Furry Animals have constructed their own year zero. Infusing every ounce of musical creativity they have gleaned from eight albums of inventive challenging wonderment, the group have managed to free themselves from the tightly bound shackles of the classic pop structure to produce an album that is full of blistering intensity and depth but also ironically one that features an assortment of gleaming pop gems.
It all begins with the somewhat unsettling, relentlessly tormenting, sledge-hammering brilliance of -Crazy Naked Girls’ which builds into a riff of Goliath proportions before crashing back down into a dark abyss like an unyielding claustrophobic bad trip. Then we move into more familiar territory with the glam-folksiness of -Mt.’ before skidding off into a unique terrain for the Super Furries – a glacially cool minimal pop song. -Moped Eyes’ sees Gruff Rhys in full on Holger Czukay mode, crooning over plinking keyboards and a funked up bass-line about ‘hot clubs and endless nights’, sounding like a welcome hang over from his time in Neon Neon. From then on it’s the radio-friendly customary fare of -Inaugural Trams’ and the sadly bland stomp of -Inconvenience’ before something truly magical happens.
As the title suggests Dark Days/Light Years is an album of two halves and the giant centre, the lynchpin of this work being the mesmerising shining beacon that is -Cardiff in the Sun’. For sixteen years Super Furry Animals have been threatening to write a song of this magnitude. An overwhelmingly beautiful ode to home, with endless warping guitars that weave a hypnotic haze, it encompasses their breadth of their musical influences from the Beach Boys to Can to Serge Gainsbourg but marked with their own distinctive stamp.
This captivating spirit is abruptly broken by -The Very Best of Neil Diamond’, a bizarrely rustic sax led caper about the unfortunate nature of fate that leads to the most inappropriate songs soundtracking life’s most significant events. From this astute theory to the glorious burst of naÃ¯ve brightness -Helium Hearts’, a tender hymn that celebrates the wonder of the chin that ‘holds up the smile’ and -White Socks/Flip Flops’ an Os Mutantes style sing-a-long ,the genre hopping nature of Dark Days/Light Years may frustrate some listeners with its lack of cohesiveness.
This capricious spirit may be seen as a reaction against their overly structured predecessor Hey Venus! but Dark Days/Light Years is a welcome return to a more relaxed, inventive, organic realm. The diversity of sounds and themes focuses attention on the potency and value of the singular track making the album a sort of fun lucky dip. An exquisite singles collection with every track a centre to itself.